I brushed my teeth before I wrote this

By Mir
March 7, 2007

I ran out for some groceries while the kids were having dinner with their dad tonight. While perusing the produce I spotted a prodigious head of garlic practically crying out for a good roasting, and so I brought it home and did just that. Dinner was much of the resultant goodness smeared on slices of wheat baguette, and while I enjoyed it very much, you probably don’t want me to breathe on you. Or near you.

The kids came home and Chickadee cocked her head to the side as soon as she entered the kitchen. She sniffed her way over to the stove, and beheld the leftover roasted garlic as well as the papery skeleton of the head. Then she peered at me with great concern and cupped my face in her hands.

“Mama,” she asked, “are you worried about vampires?”

When I laughed she continued to pat my cheeks, eyes twinkling, pleased that she’d amused me.

And the truth is that she really does amuse me, so much of the time. Heck, as much as I hate the various Incidents Which Shall Not Be Named wherein I fear for my daughter, fear for my ability to parent her, fear that life will never feel normal, after any such problem, my very favorite person comes to visit.

Her name is Lovely Chickadee.

It’s not that Chickadee ISN’T lovely in general, but my darling prickly pear is given to arguing, and complaining, and sulking. (I have no idea where she gets that from. Shut UP.) But after a Major Incident we get about a week of respite. She is repentant, yes, and that translates into greater compliance, greater eagerness to please. But I’m also starting to think that the relief of the sky not falling gives her a—however temporary—feeling of security that just plain cheers her up.

The last few days, she’s been mild and helpful and loving and FUN. She has not protested the work detail I’ve got her on, not really. She’s been on task at school and even relatively patient with her brother.

Today the phone ran shortly before lunch and it was the school guidance counselor. She was kind enough to preface her call with “Nothing’s wrong! Don’t worry!” (She knows how my mind works.) She then spent a good chunk of time telling me all about how Chickadee had lunch with her yesterday and talked and talked about our trip and how much fun she had. “It was the first time,” said the counselor to me, “that I sensed actual EXCITEMENT about the move. And more than that, I really felt a genuine affection for Otto, whereas she’s often avoided talking about him in the past.”

When she took a break to ask why I was laughing, I told her about the END of the trip and how Chickadee conveniently left that part out. But it’s true that everything had been pretty idyllic up to that point, and it’s nice to know that that’s what she’s focusing on.

“Well,” the counselor suggested, “maybe that was a test she needed to do, in her mind. She did something awful, and there were consequences, but Otto didn’t kill her. She’s getting it, that no one is going to stop loving her.”

(When she put it like that, it all made sense. I mean, I’d be pretty cheerful after I wasn’t murdered when I fully expected to be, I guess.)

Anyway, the guidance counselor is a gem and does not yet know that I fully plan to tuck her into my pocket before we leave for Georgia. Shhhh, do not tell. Where else am I going to find someone who has lunch individually with each of my kids once a week, working to get Chickadee talking about her feelings and then helping Monkey to manage his a bit better?

I expect that Lovely Chickadee may be gone after the weekend, but I have enjoyed her visit (as always). Tonight when she asked why I was giving her so many things to do, I reminded her that she belongs to me this week. “You’re my slave!” I quipped.

She paused with the load of stuff I’d just asked her to take upstairs. “Mama. It’s a FREE COUNTRY.”

“Not for YOU it isn’t,” I reminded her. “The Republic of Mama is a dictatorship where only the children who BEHAVE get to go live in a free country.”

Now, last week, and probably next week, that would/will elicit eyerolls and huffing and puffing, but today it just made her giggle and sail up the stairs calling “I clean toilets in the dictatorship!”

I wouldn’t recommend this particular method of obtaining a harmonious week (great transgressions lead to great weeks! try it today!), but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

And the toilets are nice and sparkly.


  1. Keryn

    Mir, you make me smile. And laugh. Thank you so much for sharing your writing talents with us.

  2. Cele

    Chickie does have a sparkling wit, maybe the world will luck out and she’ll be a writer like her mom.

  3. Tracey

    Gee. I’ve got it all wrong. Through varied ‘transgressions’ I’ve never succeeded in getting the toilets cleaned by the transgressor. (And certainly not singing ‘I clean toilets in the dictatorship!’) And the longer it’s been left, the harder it seems to be to get The Squeamish One to do anything ‘mucky’. And she’s the eldest!!

    While you worry so much about your parenting (most of us do!) you have to know that you are so obviously a wonderful parent! Somehow I think that no matter what they do, as long as you don’t stop caring, and trying, then that is being the best parent you could possibly be.

    Your blog is a shining light in my day. Your wonderful way with words, whether you are writing about upsides or downsides, always leaves me in awe. Go Mir. You rock. As a blogger, and as a Mum/Mom!!

  4. Sara

    I love it when things are good. Even when you are fairly certain that the “sunshine and lollipops” are going to give way to “thunderstorms and broccoli’ at some point. Revel in it, my friend.

  5. tori

    When I complained of my daughter being “moody” at her last checkup, the doctor reminded me that she’s 9 now, so she might be starting to get hormonal. Seriously? When I got pregnant with her, I wanted a baby, not a teenager!

  6. David

    Nice post, Mir. Glad to hear LC has such a resilient spirit. I wonder where she gets it from? *grinning mirthfully*

  7. chris

    Well if there is a next time, and I really hope there isn’t, you can send her over to the Dictatorship of Chris. I have seven toilets that could use some attention.

  8. LadyBug Crossing

    LOL!! They all do that after they bring us to the edge.


  9. chris

    there is no one on earth who could be a better mother to your kids than you are!

  10. MomCat

    I think that complain/sulk/argue = a child. Hey, no one warned me either! And since I was a perfectcough angel coughcoughcough as a child, it never occurred to me that my daughter would be….horror of horrorsjust like me!

    There’s a compelling reason for any chore you make the kids do – “It builds character.”

    I am glad you both enjoyed the visit. :) Hope Lovely Chickadee sticks around for awhile.

  11. Woman with Kids

    That’s exactly how Boy 1 is. It’s like there’s two of them. The evil one and the real one. It’s nice when the real one is here, I enjoy him so much. The evil one? Meh. I’d like to sell him on ebay.

  12. Brown Eyed Girl

    See and when Kyle gets moody and argumentative I DO remember myself at his age, it’s my husband that has a harder time. I’ve often said to him “Oh you were such an angel? Call your Mom, ask her if you were ever like this at 10, 12? I’ll JUST BET you weren’t as perfect as you think you were?”

    I’m glad you’re having a lovely visit from Chickadee.

    Here’s to hoping it doesn’t hit ROCK BOTTOM.

  13. ChristieNY

    I like how the guidance counselor put it, she needed that test. I hope the LC sticks around longer than you anticipate… :)

    PS do you think it’s too early to start having my 3 year old scrub the toilet? It’s bad enough that he’s been terrorizing his little brother, but his potty aim leaves much to be desired… lol

  14. bob

    I think the boys in the world are in serious trouble when Chickadee discovers them.

  15. Melanie Marie

    Take that woman with you!!! She sounds awesome!

    I’m glad that you have a little break. Maybe you should video tape her now so you can look at it when she is going through a rough patch!

  16. Julie Q.

    I’m totally going to use that dictatorship line on my kids. They think they live in a democracy. Strike that. They think they live in whatever government it is where the adults work like slaves and the kids get to lounge around and read and eat extra bowls of cereal all day.

  17. Steff

    That is great! I make my 10yr old son fold towels as part of his slave duties! I loved that dictatorship line, hope I remember it!!

  18. Shalee

    I run that same sort of dictatorship at our house; I just never had such a great name for it. Mine is called, “You have to sweep/unload the dishwasher/clean your room because I do everything else around here. You will do those chores with a great attitude or else I shall sit back and let you do the laundry, dishes, shopping, cooking, dusting, cleaning, bills, small repairs, vacuuming, mopping, bathrooms, secretary-ing, organizing, yardwork – on top of full-time employment so that you will learn to appreciate how little you really have to do and what a great mom you do have after all” – or something like that. Yours is so much easier to say.

    And I’m a garlic lover too, so you don’t have to hold your breath on my account.

  19. jenn2

    We’ve talked before about how I have an earlier prototype of Chickadee. I will let you know that the lovely times come with increasing frequency as she ages and my mother swears that in a few years, my Drama Queen will be a lovely young woman who will become my very best friend. She says she’s the voice of experience, but I don’t buy that, because I was a model child. ;)

    I’m off to go buy garlic and chardonnay now. Mr. Clairol says to not give me any more great ideas.

  20. JayMonster

    OK, solve this one for me oh great dictator. My daughter when she does something wrong… self punishes. She denies herself playtime or dessert, before I can do anything. How do I get from self-correcting commune to dictatorship? I don’t get any of the “fun” or benefits of punishment. ;)

  21. wordgirl

    Mmmm. Softened garlic baked in butter and spread on crusty French bread…with a glass of pinot on the side? Heaven!

  22. cce

    Your description of Chickadee’s mood swings has shed light on my own behavior. I left thinking, so that is how my husband feels most of the time. One moment its sparkles and sunshine, the next vitriol and rage. Uhmm, I think Chickadee’s fine, she’s a child, growth spurts, hormones, you name it. But me, what’s my excuse?

  23. Stephanie

    Wow. Mine’s only 6 months right now, but I can only hope that she grows up to be like Chickadee. I would LOVE for someone else to clean the bathroom!

  24. anna

    To be charmed and amused by your own child is one of the great paybacks of mothering.

  25. meritt

    I can’t help but be nosey and wonder what in the world she did that you ‘won’t speak of’ but yet you keep speaking about it! LOL.

  26. Kate

    I can fully understand why you want to take the counsellor with you, I too would love to have someone who is able to get inside the kids heads.

  27. Dysd. Housewife

    This just makes me even more curious to know WHAT SHE DID on your trip!! Gah!

  28. Sophie

    Yeeeeeeaaa for Chickadee! Yeeeeeaa for Counselor Lady! Yeeeeaaa for Mir and Otto! So it was testing? That was a great perspective from Counselor Lady. I’m storing that one away for future reference. Because if genetics has anything to do with it, my child with be a fierce tester of parents –because I sure was.

  29. kate setzer kamphausen

    See, you’ll fit in just fine in the South. (a) You have your children serve YOU (instead of the other way around, like a damn Yankee or at least a damn Midwesterner, not that I’m bitter!), and (b) your name is already “Mama.”

    That’s the perfect Southern moniker for that hardworkin’ lady who birthed you. Not Mom, not Mother, and certainly not Ma – it’s always Mama.

    You’ve even got the Southern spelling right.

    Go You!!!!!

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